06 August 2018

Emilie and Ella

I had the pleasure of seeing Emilie Boon’s picture book Ella and Monkey at Sea develop in a writers’ group.

It’s just been published, and Emilie wrote about drawing on her own childhood experiences at the Nerdy Book Club:
I often explain to students I teach that not everything in the book happened to me in exactly the way I wrote it. I changed details for the sake of a clearer and more resonant story, while remaining faithful to the emotional truth I knew deep inside.

I always knew I had a story to tell about this voyage, but I wasn’t always sure how to go about telling it. I found a way into the story through the main character, Ella. Once I finally decided how to develop the character visually, her personality and voice came quickly. This is an example of the added benefit of being both the author and the illustrator where the pictures inform the story and the story informs the pictures.

Just like Ella, I drew a sun with crayon during the turbulent Atlantic crossing. How could the grown ups not like a picture of the sun amidst the stormy seas, winds and rain? In real life I even won a prize for that picture, but I didn’t think that was important for the story I wanted to tell.

I was more interested in the fact that a child can envision the good, or a happy ending, in the middle of a difficult situation, reflecting the amazing resiliency that many children have. As long as they have at least one loved one close, I think children can be strong and adaptable. Expressing fears, anxieties, and hopes for better times through art, is a well-documented way children can process adversity.
Congratulations to Emilie on making part of her own story into a story for many children!

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